Test your positive thinking: make yourself the main character and feel pain

How deep is your positive thinking?

So you’ve resolved to live happily ever after?  And your friends and colleagues are mocking your for your new found happy ways?

The big test

Here is the big test for your commitment to happiness.

Imagine yourself in the most horrible circumstances

Write a short novel with you as the main character.  And write the worst things that can happen to you. Not the most horrible things in other people’s minds but the most horrible in yours.

Think of things that are so bad that your heart races and you feel as if you could pass out.

Now write yourself out of those situations.

When you can describe the worst and write a story that takes you out of those places, then you understand your hopes and values. Then you are truly thinking positively.

My first try

I am going to try this over a cup of coffee.  And you know what?  I know the first hurdle.  I know I don’t want to write myself out of a bad situation because then it is obvious I could get out of it!  And when I define the situation as bad, I don’t want it to suddenly be quite manageable (if disgusting and terrifying).  I wonder if I will ever manage this!

Tell me about your first try?

 

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Found on a British train! The lost art of slick administration

I learned from the masters of administration!

I went to a university where we moved through a degree programme in lock-step.  In year one, we took 2.5 subjects, 2 compulsory papers from each of the first 2, and one paper from the third.  In year two, we took 4 papers from one of the first two subjects and 1 from the second.  And the same in year three, but a different set.

The sum of variation allowed was changing the order around 5:0 and 3:2, or if you were really smart, taking a 6th paper.

The university waited for no one

Not even babies!  The university took a simple view that examinations were taken once and once only and deferred only for matters totally outside our control.  Sporting matches, babies that after all arrive on quite a predictable schedule, family celebrations – were all deemed matters under our control.

Even being detained without trial by various rogue governments wasn’t deemed a reason to vary the schedule!  The university made a slight concession and brought you exam to your in jail!

Good administration leads to assured output & a productive life

The net effect of this policy is that the university opened and shut on time. People began degrees and finished them. The simplicity of the administration in that university was just stunning.

All requests had to be made before the event. Nothing was considered retrospectively. All decisions were made on facts marshalled on one piece of paper.  Decisions were made against clear criteria that were public and you knew what you could request from whom and on what grounds. All decisions were reviewed at the next level up where they were considered against new criteria.

A lecturer (professor) graded your paper and the lecturer’s colleagues approved the mark. Those marks were put together and an inter-Department committee approved your GPA/class of degree. An inter-Faculty committee checked that the Faculty committees weren’t being too lenient or too hard.  An eminently logical, rational, fair and transparent environment.

Lock-step systems can be inefficient when misunderstood

Lock-step systems don’t always produce efficiency or fairness, though.   I came out of that system quite well, and I am not unhappy that I studied psychology, sociology and anthropology. But I had actually wanted to study psychology, economics and mathematics – which I was very good at.

Novices need guidance not on the system but how the system will serve their goals

To achieve that combination, someone with knowledge of the system needed to sit my 17 year old self down and ask me what I wanted to do.

The answer would have been for me to enrol in the Arts Faculty for a B.A , to read psychology (2 papers) & economics (2 papers) in the Faculty of Social Studies, and Mathematics (2 papers) in the Faculty of Science!

Apart from being too complicated for a noobe to find, that solution would have made me a little insecure because a BA (General) has a lot less status than a B.Sc. (Hons) and I wouldn’t have read Sociology (upsetting my father).  I would have studied though what I wanted to study and created the choice of transferring in second year to a straight Honours in any of the three subjects, or continuing with a more general mix including picking up Sociology in second year.

Would I have been better off if I had taken this road? Who knows!  What I do know is that the system was more concerned with its lock-step, which was very efficient, than making sure I developed to my full potential.

Lock-step systems require highly qualified front-line staff who understand the values and goals as well as the plan

I quite like lock-step systems because they give people a clear model of what to do.  We need to ‘see ahead’ when we are a ‘noobe’.

But we can waste resources and time too easily when we don’t distinguish values from goals from plans.

  • We had three values in our case– broad first year, Honours (meaning specialize) in 2nd and 3rd year, and finish neatly in three years.
  • The plan is the lock-step system I described at the top of the post.
  • The goal was my goal – to study psychology, economics and mathematics.  That got lost.

To make sure that the (usually) naive client pursues their goal, we need good frontline staff who can find out what my goal is – or what the client’s goal is.  That is paramount.

  • We only use the model to communicate the values concretely. It shouldn’t be a strait-jacket.
  • Then we make a plan that fits our streamlined system, adheres to our values, and allows the client to pursue their goal directly in the comfort of our well run service.

Most systems in Britain are plan-led.  Lock-step supersedes common sense.

I see so much in Britain where the plan seems to override the goal.

We’ve borrowed 175 billion this year to keep going. That is 3000 pounds per man, woman and child. Not that much, hey?

I bet we could simplifiy our services to cost less and achieve heaps more by having

  • much simpler models (a lock-step model to convey the idea)

  • spending more time finding out the goals of individuals

  • and lastly creating an individual plan to navigate the system.

This wouldn’t put people out-of-work, it would just allow a lot more to be done at a fraction of the cost, allowing the country to make more money to pay the bills!

We the unhappy punters would feel better and get more done. We would spend less time on the phone talking to call centres and officials whose main job it does seem is to fill in meaningless bits of paper for meaningless procedures whose ultimate destination is a a database left on a train.

P.S. The people who thought up the systems at the well-run uni were Scots.  We have the expertise.  We just don’t seem to be using it.

Positive psychology in Barack Obama’s words

US Senator Barack Obama campaigning in New Ham...
Image via Wikipedia

“As an African-American, I will never forget that I would not be here today without the steady pursuit of a more perfect union in my country. That guides my belief that, no matter how dark the day may seem, transformative change can be forged by those who choose the side of justice.

And I pledge that America will always stand with those who stand up for their dignity and their rights—for the student who seeks to learn; the voter who demands to be heard; the innocent who longs to be free; and the oppressed who yearns to be equal.”

Barack Obama addressing the United Nations Wednesday 23 September 2009

“for the student who seeks to learn; the voter who demands to be heard; the innocent who longs to be free; and the oppressed who yearns to be equal.”

The mission and values of psychologists

In these words, Barack Obama has summed up the mission and purpose of psychologists all over the world most eloquently.

These goals are not just our goals.  They are the mission and purpose of other people too. After all, Obama is a lawyer, a college professor and a politician.

But if in what we do, we do not pursue these goals, then we do nothing at all.

The heart of positive psychology and positive organizational scholarship

Barack Obama has said what positive psychologists and positive organizational scholars struggle to say simply.

It is the student who seeks to learn (not the teacher who intends to teach).

It is the voter who demands to be heard (not the politician who intends to tell).

It is the innocent who longs to be free (not the hypocritical who intends to justify).

It is the oppressed who yearns to be equal (not the the powerful who intends to explain).

It matters so much whose perspective we take.

It matters so much who is the subject of the sentence.

It matters so much whose intent we seek to buttress.

It matters so much that we choose the side of justice.

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Reality is broken. Games are great. What do you dislike about games?

Game designers are better at psychology than psychologists

Jane McGonigal, games designer extraordinaire, has long pointed out that games are better designed than most jobs.   I agree with her, but oddly I still prefer work.

Nonetheless, agreeing that games designers make better use of work psychology than psychologists do, I’ve been deliberately playing games from beginning to end.

Orientation that gives control back to the audience

Getting into games, the autonomy dimension of Ryan & Deci’s ARC model is clear.  We need to be be able to see what to do at glance. We shouldn’t need elaborate instructions or encouragement.

Something for the audience to get their teeth into

I am stepping through the levels quite doggedly.  That should be the competence dimension of Ryan & Dec’s model.  In truth, games are quite fun while I am figuring out the rules – or when I think I can push myself to a new level.  But they also get boring quickly.  Dogged is the feeling I have!

A way for us to play together

I think I don’t use the social aspects of games sufficiently. Social or relationships, is the third component of Ryan & Deci’s ARC model.

I am probably not very sociable because my motives for playing games aren’t social.  But, equally, I probably get bored quickly because I am not being sociable.

Bringing our own rules to the game

What has interested me more has been the way my preconceptions affect my game play

In a game in which I played the role of explorer in Africa, it took me a long while to realize that I could deliberately kill people and even longer to do it.

In Mafia Wars running on Facebook, I am yet to start a fight. I am yet to invest in armor.  I only do jobs against an anonymous enemy.  When someone attacks me, I just clean up and take out some more insurance.

In Farmeville, I would like to share my tractor.

Does social mean more than sending gifts and energy bonuses? Are our ‘identities’ and ‘values’ also important to us?

Sometimes it is useful to have our values challenged.  Sometimes it is useful to see that we impose rules that other people don’t care about.

Then we have a choice.  Do we want to play by those rules?  Maybe we do.

Can you beat my 3 simple rules of conduct?

 r

Quite recently, we got a TESCO’s, a little one.  We have a Co-op tucked away in a side court.  But we don’t have a Boots or WHSmith.

This is a little town and we don’t have a Timpson’s either.  I had never heard of them until I heard one its owners talking on Radio 4.  They are an odd jobbing kind of firm that do your shoes, your keys, and so on, and have branches right across the UK.

Well what is this to do with you?

They say they have two rules in their code of conduct

1.  Look the part

2.  Don’t steal our money

What are your rules?

I have three rules of conduct

1.    Look after yourself

2.   Look after us

3.   Always be ready for a customer who walks through the door

Can you make them any simpler or clearer?

79 flowers to brand your work

Carnation~
Image by edzahid via Flickr

I’m carrying a torch for you!

A red carnation.  I think that is mine.

I set 5 hard questions about business models in the age of the internet that I am having difficulty answering myself.

So let me start close in, so to speak.  Which flower represents the commitment a psychologist has to client?

A red carnation – I am carrying a torch for you.

Which flower captures the heart of your work?

Do bookmark my blog and come back to tell me.  Please.

Sorry, the flower page seems to have been removed.  I’ve looked around the internet and haven’t found one I like so much.   Have a look at pages listed under “flowers meaning”,  just to help you put your finger on the essence of your relationship with your customers.

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Is your jar full?

Good stories sometimes arrive serendipitously

I have absolutely no idea how this came on my screen. I was googling SABC news and this popped up. Well it did, and if you are interested in positive psychology, setting goals, having a meaningful life, then this story is for you.

I am going to paste it in verbatim. It is from a site called OceanCityFools. I don’t know anything about them.  You might want to check them out yourself.   Here is the story.  Sorry about the formatting – no idea how to change font size in WordPress.  Story is still good.

Is Your Jar Full?

When things in your life seem almost to much to handle, when 24 hours in a
day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar……and the beer.

A Professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front
of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and
empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then
asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So the Professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the
jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas
between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was
full. They agreed it was.

The Professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of
course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar
was full. The students responded with an unanimous “Yes.”

The Professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and
poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty
space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the Professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to
recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things – your family, your children, your
health, your friends, your favorite passions – things that if everything
else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house,
your car. The sand is everything else – the small stuff.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first”, he continued, “there is no room
for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all
your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the
things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are
critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get
medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There
will always be time to clean the house, and fix the disposal. Take care of
the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities.
The rest is just sand.”

When he had finished, there was a profound silence. Then one of the
students raised her hand and with a puzzled expression, inquired what the
beer represented.

The Professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no
matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of
beers.”

Don’t sweat the small stuff . . . but enjoy it anyway!

Active listening

For fear of ever losing it, I must quote The Bumble Bee word-for-word here.

“Imagine you are the leader of a new team or network.

How can you quickly find out what each team member’s number one concern is about working in this scenario?

Dr Lewis recommends you get each of them to repeat the following 5 words out loud without thinking about it too much:

“We can’t do that here”

Listen carefully to which of the five words they stress – if it’s:

  1. We – they are worried about their identity
  2. Can’t – they are worried about their beliefs and values
  3. Do – they are worried about their skills
  4. That – they are worried about their behavior
  5. Here – they are worried about the environment”

UPDATE:  This heuristic is quite sophisticated listening, yet it is needed.  Even IT people struggle with comments like : We can’t do that here.  What exactly does someone mean when they say that.

Can we separate out the ideas a little more?

1  We – what will my friends and significant others think of me?

2  Can’t – that doesn’t make sense with the other things we think and do

3  Do – we don’t know how to do that, or manage that

4 That – we can do it another way but not like that

5 Here – what you suggest will harm this place

This is highly nuanced listening which helps to find a person’s underlying objection.